Wherever There Is A Mystery Flavor Contest, The Takeout Shall Be There [Updated]

Update, November 2, 2020: At long last, Steel Reserve has revealed the secret of its Spiked Mystery flavor. And yes, I was definitely overthinking things when I asked, "Would such an elaborate contest hang on a flavor as straightforward as mango?" Because, as it turns out, it was even simpler than that: Spiked Tangerine. Congratulations to all who won the contest with their confident, not-at-all-overthinking-it correct guesses! Enjoy your prize money and your boozy citrus soda. You've earned it.

Original post, September 1, 2020: Like so many brands of gas station snacks and alcoholic beverages, I last encountered Steel Reserve lager in my college years. But it has undergone a bit of a renaissance since then: in 2016 the company introduced the Alloy Series, a line of fruit-flavored malt beverages in varieties like Spiked Blue Razz, Spiked Tropic Storm, Hard Pineapple, and BLK BERRY (all 8% ABV and in black-accented extreme-looking pint cans, hitting the same marks as Mike's Harder Lemonade—another college acquaintance of mine). And starting today, there is an eighth flavor being added to the lineup. But that flavor is a mystery. And anyone who can guess what that flavor is has a chance to win $10,000.

According to a press release, here's how you can enter the mystery flavor contest:

  • Find a Mystery Flavor can (in stores nationwide beginning today) and scan the QR code, which will take you to SRASMystery.com to submit your guess. (You can also visit SRASMystery.com to enter your guess.)
  • Those who participate will have a chance to opt in to receive 3-5 clues via email.
  • Correct guesses will be entered to win the $10,000 grand prize. Anyone who participates (whether or not their guess is correct) is also entered to win $500.
  • Entries will be closed Saturday, October 31, and winners will be selected and notified October 31-November 13. The Mystery flavor will be announced on November 13.
  • Usually that's where we'd end things, reader, but this story is not yet over. Because, you see, I have been provided a can of Steel Reserve Alloy Series' Mystery Flavor, and I'm going to do my best to reveal its secrets.

    Like Aimee Levitt's admirable efforts to crack the code of Mystery Oreos, I want to go about this methodically. So let's start with the can. It's got an orange and white color scheme. Does that provide some hint to the flavors contained within? Am I about to taste notes of Dreamsicle?

    Here are the current flavors in the Steel Reserve Alloy Series (henceforth SRAS), which might assist a process of elimination:

    • Spiked Punch
    • Spiked Tropic Storm
    • Spiked Blue Razz
    • Spiked Strawberry Burst
    • Hard Pineapple
    • Spiked Watermelon
    • While other products like hard seltzers turn to citrus for the bulk of their initial flavor offerings, the SRAS seems to have eschewed obvious choices like lemon and lime. Maybe the orange can does signal a citrusy new flavor?

      Cracking open the can, I take a big sniff—this was a key step in ranking the Truly flavors, since aroma plays such a huge role in taste. I am getting a definite orange smell, though maybe I've just talked myself into that possibility at this point. I take a sip.

      Perhaps unfortunately for my future sugar intake, I find this beverage to be incredibly delicious. It's been a decade since I last touched a Mike's Hard Lemonade, but this reminds me of what I liked about that drink, minus the syrupy-sweet aftertaste that made it so easy to leave Mike's behind. Granted, I still don't think I could down 16 ounces of this (it'd become too cloying after about 5-8 ounces, I think), but I say that as someone whose sugar allotment is already unevenly dedicated to post-breakfast cookies, Hershey's miniatures, post-dinner cookies, and an ice cream nightcap. For those whose daily treat schedule does not mirror my own, this might be the sweet afternoon kick you're looking for. And at 8%, it can get you halfway to sloshed!

      With every sip, it tastes less like orange, and more like something equally familiar that remains just out of grasp—pinpointing flavors without the suggestion of what those flavors might be is like trying to remember a dream you've woken up from. WAIT. That hyperfruitiness, the almost floral levels of aroma—mango! Is it mango? I try to harness every sense memory I have of mangoes and take another sniff of the can, followed by a sip. Yes, this is a closer flavor match than orange, and the color of the can (though not the liquid itself, which pours clear) is a decent match to the color of ripe mango flesh. My final guess is mango.

      But... would such an elaborate contest hang on a flavor as straightforward as mango? The other SRAS flavors include mixtures like "Tropic Storm" and whatever is included in "Punch." Could this be something similarly complex, like mango lime? Have I lost all confidence in my guess? Ugh, it might be back to the drawing board again. Good thing they sent three pints.